Head Coach Jay Gruden
* The following is a transcript of a conference call with local reporters this afternoon.*
On if there is anything he wishes they'd done differently on defense:
"Well, I think you can always second guess yourself when you give up 140-plus yards rushing and the third down conversion rate that they had, fourth down conversion rate that they had… I think, number one, we have just got to go back and look and correct our mistakes and then study Dallas and figure out things that might be able to do differently from a personnel standpoint, from a coaching standpoint and go from there. But, the game is done. We've got to learn from it and move on."
On if the team is considering signing DL Cullen Jenkins:
"We're bringing him in tonight, talk to him, and then we'll probably have to make a roster move if we do choose to sign him. The reason we cut him initially was just the amount of people we had healthy, and we made a decision to keep the linemen that we kept on the defensive side of the ball. We kept the six, including Anthony Lanier. We kept an extra offensive lineman because of Spencer Long's status. We kept an extra defensive back because of [Deshazor] Everett's play on special teams. And we'll have to make a decision on which person we'll have to let go or bring back on the practice squad, hopefully. And that decision we're talking about no – if we choose to sign Cullen."
On getting QB Kirk Cousins to play within himself while playing from behind:
"Yeah, I think there's something to be said for that. We haven't been very good coming from behind other than that Tampa game last year, we came from behind. Last night we were down, I think, 17-6, and they forced an interception there to Jordan Reed. We had a couple of other options there for him, especially on first and 10. But, you know, that's just a growing experience. The more reps he gets, the better he'll get. I think there's some plays he wishes he had back, there's some plays we wish we had back as play callers, and so-on and so-forth. Hats off to Pittsburgh. Like I said, they played good zone defense. Not a lot of man-to-man, good solid zone defense, and made us take what we were given and sometimes that didn't work out."
On if the team should have run the ball more in the second half:
"I think in the second half when we got behind, I think we needed to get some yards – and yards fast – to get back in the ballgame. So I'm not upset with going away from the run in the second half. I think the first half maybe we could have stuck with the run a little bit more, but I think based on the film study and the preparation that we did, we thought going through the air was a great approach to attacking Pittsburgh's defense. We thought going through the air was a better way than trying to run the ball, especially with Matt [Jones] coming off the injury a little bit. We had the plays there if you go back and watch the film. We just failed to convert on a few key plays and keep drives going. That's the approach we took for this week. Next week could be totally different."
On CB Bashaud Breeland:
"I think Bashaud, he's a great competitor. He really is. He's made some great plays throughout training camp and last year he started to grow a lot. We felt like he was in a good position to be one of…a very good corner this year, and we still think that. He just got beat by a great player a couple times. I know there are some plays he wishes he had back. I think he was looking for the ball, trying to make plays on the ball when he should have just been studying Antonio [Brown] and staying with Antonio. He lost sight of him a couple of times, lost track of the ball a couple times, and missed a couple tackles that he normally makes. It wasn't his best performance, obviously, but he was going up against the best in the National Football League, one of the best. It was a good learning experience for him, but we're not going to give up on him and I know he's not going to give up on himself. He's got great confidence and he's still a great player in our book."
On the potential for CB Josh Norman to follow top receivers around formations:
"It could be. The issue is you like to not show your hand in man-to-man all the time and so every time he travels, it's man-to-man. Then you have issues with pick plays and all that stuff. That's something that we can look at, but we still feel like [Bashaud] Breeland can cover a lot of people in the league, man. He just had a couple rough plays and a couple unbelievable throws and catches by Ben [Roethlisberger] and Antonio [Brown], man. Hats off to them."
"Man, the two holding calls, man I don't know. Vernon [Davis] I thought had a good block on the one holding call. He came in and we had a little wham block and I thought he had a good solid block. I don't know where the holding was, but they thought he got his hands outside of the body so I guess that's what they called. We have got to watch his hands and Trent [Williams] had one where his hands got outside a little bit but those were tight calls, man. That happens quite a bit on the offensive line and we've just got to coach them up so they keep their hands inside. And the false start penalties, we are going to address that for sure tomorrow when the players get here. I don't know if it's the snap count, if the players are trying to anticipate the snap count a little bit too much. I don't know if Kirk [Cousins] is dragging out the snap count too much. It's something that we have got to address cause we had four of them, and two of them were really, really costly. We had the plays that we had absolutely drawn up for the coverage that we wanted and the false start just killed us, so it's something that is very inexcusable for us as coaches to deal with. So we have got to get corrected. Something as simple as the snap count can cost you and it cost us last night."
On if the false starts were related to giving Cousins more leeway at the line of scrimmage:
"No, I think we have a lot of different snap counts, maybe we have too many. You hear quarterbacks go through them all the time in the NFL now. There are so many different snap counts and you've got to be a little bit creative in your snap counts and maybe we are going over the top. We just have to slow it down and become a little bit more basic, but it's something that you need have in the National Football League in my opinion. You have got to [have] variety in your snap count and we have got to be able to handle it. We are professional football players and we'll trim it down a little bit, but it is something that we have to handle. But it's not too much for our guys to handle, I don't think. It's just last night, we've just got to clean up some things."
On improving the run defense before facing Dallas:
"Yeah, you look at the run defense and they gutted us there at the end and I think guys got a little bit tired but you look at it sometimes it was a D-lineman and sometimes it was the interior guys, the outside backers, sometimes the inside backers not falling back, maybe the safety missed a tackle, maybe a corner missed a tackle, so it was a combination of a lot of things last night. I know our guys have a lot of pride in what they do and we missed some tackles we normally make and hats off to DeAngelo [Williams] too, he made some outstanding runs. But we have to be where we are supposed to be and we have to make the plays we are supposed to make. That's pro football and that's what it's all about and we're going to address it tomorrow at practice and move on and really challenge the guys because it's going to be a great challenge going against the Dallas offensive line with a couple Pro Bowlers out there – two or three."
On if the team's conditioning was a factor in the second half:
"I think maybe. I think we had a couple quick drives on offense and it left our defense out there and then we're unable to get off the field on some critical third downs. I mean, you look at the game and we were poor on third down. They were 9-for-14, they were 100 percent on fourth down and they were 3-for-3 in the red zone. We had a chance for five takeaways and only got one. Thirty carries for 147 yards, so there's a lot of things we have to get better at and I think getting off the field on third down would help out tremendously with our stamina; we don't have to be out there quite as long. So we're definitely going to attack third down, we're definitely going to attack how we stop the run and go from there."
On if he saw correctable mistakes on film that give him confidence that it wasn't purely Pittsburgh's dominance that led to the defeat:
"There's no doubt about it. I think we have to look at ourselves as staff, number one, to make sure we're doing the right things and getting the players in the right spots, and we have to change some things up or be more simple, that's something we're going to have to address. But I think we have good enough players here to compete in every game, and it's going to come down to a couple key plays here and there. Penalties and some turnovers and, you know, getting off the field in some key situations and that didn't happen. We didn't force enough turnovers. We gave the ball away. We had too many penalties and we didn't get off the field in key situations. So that's something we've been working on since training camp. We do a ton of situational work and we've done well up until last night, but I have faith that we're going to get it corrected and play a lot better."
On if defenses will follow Pittsburgh's lead in consistently dropping into zone coverage:
"It could be. They did do a lot of zone. I don't think they played one snap of man, which I don't think I've ever seen. They played a ton of zone. They dropped eight guys quite a few times. Our line gave us ample time to throw and we forced a couple balls and we missed a couple of throws we'd normally hit. I don't know if we're going to get more of that or not. It depends on the flavor of the defensive coordinator and the personnel of the defense that the opposing teams have. That's the thing about the NFL. Every week you're going to get something different. Next week it could be all man for all we know. We'll just have to wait and see. We have ways to attack every coverage. We just didn't a good enough job last night."
On the importance of winning at home:
"We really want to take care of our home games. That was a big benefit last year; we were 6-2 at home. It's important because winning on the road isn't easy. Obviously, winning at home isn't easy either, but it's an important game for a lot of reasons. It's a division game, it's the Cowboys and it's a home game – that's a trifecta right there for you. So, it's very, very important."
On how Pittsburgh defended TE Jordan Reed:
"They just played standard zone coverages. They spot-dropped and read the quarterback's eyes. He was sometimes open, sometimes he wasn't. We tried to get him the ball on numerous occasions, but really the concept should take care of it. We should've had checkdowns, or people sitting in holes, or what have you, and for whatever reason we didn't hit a lot of them on key situations. We moved the ball pretty well. I think his [Cousins'] pass completion percentage was pretty good. It's just the key downs, the third and fourth downs that we failed to convert. I think we were 3-for-9 on third down, and 0-for-1 or 0-for-2 on fourth down and we had the two interceptions there. Those are the key plays in the game, and those are plays that we've worked on. It's just a matter of when you're playing against a zone defense, you have to find the weak spots in the zone and hit them. It could be Jordan, it could be [Jamison] Crowder, it could be DeSean [Jackson], it could be the back on a checkdown, but we just have to rally and find our completions."
On the empty-backfield sets:
"We thought it was a good way to attack Pittsburgh's defense, really. I think spreading them out really showed their hand as far as the coverages were concerned. We tried to get some pre-snap tips, and empty, we thought we could get some tips that way for the quarterback where they had to dictate their coverage or where their blitz was coming from. That changes week-to-week. Some teams have different empty plans than others, but it is going to be a part of our offense [in] some way, shape or form throughout the course of the year."
On Pittsburgh's ability to throw out of run-heavy looks or vice versa:
"I think that's part of it. Sometimes we'd try to double Antonio [Brown] a few times and they ran the ball. We were light in the box a little bit, and we weren't able to get off blocks or make tackles, and they were getting four or five yards a chunk and getting into second and five and then they'd run it and get in third and one and they'd convert with a good, hard play action. They just beat us on some one-on-ones. Antonio beat us on a bunch of one-on-ones, and then they had a crossing route where our nickel just lost the guy for whatever reason. I have no idea why he left him, and we had a couple issues there where we just lost people and I don't know why. I think our eyes are in the wrong place. A couple times when you're playing man-to-man, you better watch your guy or cover him. If you look in the backfield, the guy's going to be gone and that happened a couple times. These are things that we can correct for sure and we'll coach them up a lot better."
On if Pittsburgh confused the Redskins in the running game:
"No, I think one of the run plays we went the wrong way. We lost four yards, and then everything else I don't think there was any confusion other than that. I think they had a run through, I think [Ryan] Shazier ran through on another run and made a heck of a play. But for the most part I think we were targeted right, just those two instances were glaring because they were negative plays."
On the decision making on fourth down on offense:
"The fourth and two was the first drive of the game and it was one and a half, two [yards]. As a coach, that's the one I regret the most. I think I should have gone for it on the first drive of the game. I think you go for it there. If you don't get it, worst case they get the ball at the 40. That's a 15-, 25-yard swing. I thought at the time we could back them up inside the 10. I hadn't seen my defense yet, I was excited to see our defense play and I wanted to back them up and make them go the long way. We got the three-and-out and they had to punt, we got the ball right back, so it wasn't that big of an issue, but it was a good scoring opportunity for us squandered possibly, had I gone for it. I will second-guess that one. The other one was, we were at the 38-yard line, I believe it was, and it was fourth and five and a half. It was 7-6 at the time and I decided to go for it there just because I thought we had a good fourth and five call and we wound up having to hit the checkdown. They disguised their coverage and Kirk had to check down for a half a yard short. Wasn't good. Two bad decisions after I look at them."
On G Arie Kouandjio officially becoming a U.S. citizen today:
"I know he's excited about it and he had to take the necessary steps so he could go to London with us, for sure. He had to have a passport. I know this is very important to him and he's taken the steps to become a U.S. citizen and I know he's excited about it. It's been a process for him. I know that this is a big deal for him and it's a big deal for us."
On if he still sees Cousins as a player who is evolving and growing:
"Oh, yeah. He doesn't have a lot of starts under his belt. I think a lot of people think he's been in the league for a while, but he's got maybe, what, 20, 22 starts under his belt? That's still a young quarterback to me. He's still growing. You look at some of the best quarterbacks in the league – Big Ben [Roethlisberger], [Tom] Brady and Roethlisberger, Eli [Manning] – these guys have a ton of starts under their belt. Tons of experience, and they've seen a lot and been through a lot, and they still have their problems every now and then. Kirk's still going to grow. He's still getting better and better and better. This is only his third year in this system – second as a starter. We're feeling him out as he's feeling the offense out. We feel like he's made some great strides already, but he's going to continue to do so. He's going to have some bumps along the way. That's what all quarterbacks go through. How he responds to those downs will make or break him as a quarterback."
On if the team was ready for the game:
"We felt so, yes. We felt we were ready for it, absolutely. We came out of the gate and had some scoring opportunities. 6-0, we missed [opportunities], we had two field goals there and played pretty well. Then they scored a touchdown and we went down and had the ball – it was 7-6, and we failed to get the fourth down and I think we threw a pick shortly thereafter and then we lost control of the game and tried to play come-from-behind. We cut it back down to eight with our touchdown and then they had that long drive – a bunch of third down conversions, I think a fourth down conversion. They made some gigantic plays in key situations that we didn't make. I think we were ready to play, we just didn't make the necessary plays to win."